Originally bamboo was seen growing in the bushes as a wild plant. Growing bamboo on an individual basis was regarded as a tedious activity and one ought to have been so passionate about it but now due to available research it has been shown to have a number of benefits (link to the other article on bamboo the miracle plant) thanks to the power of the internet and as such is widely grown as highlighted below.
Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant in the world and can grow in most Ugandan landscapes including degraded, mountainous, sandy, stony, and sometimes water-logged land areas. On our farm, we are promoting about ten species of bamboo including both green bamboos (Dendrocalamus asper), Yellow Bamboos (Bambusa Vulgaris), running bamboo, and giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus ginganteus) among others.
Bamboo seedlings do not do very in the bush but bamboo can survive in the bush once it has matured. The land should be prepared well in advance for planting bamboo seedlings. The bamboo does very well in moist, fertile, and free-draining areas.
The bamboo is propagated either with cuttings from the culms, the main stalks of the bamboo, or the rhizomes, which is the root system
Giant bamboo species require spacing of about 7 by 7 meters and small species require only 4 meters by 4 meters. The hole dug should be at least twice the size of the pot the seedlings have come in and should be at least six inches deeper than the size of the pot. The hole should be bigger in case the bamboo is being planted in degraded land. Bamboo planted on degraded land require some animal manure or fertilizers to help it in the early stages of growth.
The young bamboos have to be regularly watered unless they are planted during the rainy season. There is a need for weeding and slushing to keep the bamboo garden clean. There is a bit of pruning required as the bamboo matures to avoid it being too bushy. The bamboos have to be properly looked after when they are still young, Spot weeding around the bamboo seedlings should be done to avoid the seedlings from competing for nutrients with weeds.
Withstands strong winds
Bamboo is a very flexible plant that will bend and sway in the strongest wind speeds with only the very youngest culms suffering damage. They are likely to bend in the wind as opposed to blowing over. Bamboos have the ability to bend to ground level under the weight of snow, ice, or heavy rains, and high winds, then straighten back up to their full height once the conditions have eased.
Market for bamboo
According to UNO FAO 15.2% of Uganda is forested and the forests are being destroyed at a fast rate to pave way for human settlement and infrastructure development. Therefore, there is increasing demand for timber and firewood as the natural forests are depleted. The trees that are recommended for afforestation programs are not maturing fast enough to overtake the demand. Bamboo is the only plant that matures in three years and can easily meet demand in the short term.
There are many bamboo products on the market giving an indication of the potential demand for locally produced products. The commercialization of bamboo in Uganda is expected to generate income for the farmers and also create job opportunities for the rural community in addition to protecting the environment. Uganda has joined an International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) that helps members with bamboo information, technology transfer, capacity building, and policy formulation.
Uses of bamboo
The bamboo can be processed and used in different ways including the following among others;
- Building materials;
- Making furniture
- Make clothes and paper;
- Making food utensils and
- Food for people and animals
The challenges the farmer may initially face in the growing of bamboo include the following among others;
- Lack of seedlings for planting;
- Limited support from the government;
- Raising capital for the growing of bamboo is a challenge;
- There is no big buyer of bamboo as of now;
- Lack of community awareness of the uses of bamboo;
- There is limited research knowledge on bamboo in Uganda;
At the farm level the following actions have been taken in response to the above challenges;
The farm is producing bamboo seedlings both for own use and sale;
Introduced various species of bamboo in order to meet the demand for bamboo products;
Embarked on making furniture and kitchen items out of unprocessed bamboo and
The farm is continuously sharing information on bamboo with the local community and other stakeholders.